Thirty Years and Counting…

2014 is a pivotal year for me. In June of 1982 I was made redundant from the printer’s where I worked. With my small redundancy payment I bought a super 8 camera, a projector, all the editing gear and some film stock and decided my new career was as a filmmaker. No training, no qualifications, no family connections, no money, yet in January 1984 I showed my first films to the general public – at the Harlequin rooms, Royal and Derngate Theatre, supporting David J (of Bauhaus/ Love and Rockets), and the Jazz Butcher.

Thanks to David offering me that first opportunity I reconnected with the Northampton Music Scene after a couple of years away, I met photographer Mitch Jenkins and began a fruitful 5 year period of collaboration with him on live events, art projects and film making, including three years working together making rock music videos under our company moniker Harvey Zajac Films.

What made the venture so successful? How was it that I, as a totally untrained filmmaker without so much as an o level to my name ended up producing music videos for a living, seeing my work screened regularly on MTV and released on VHS and Laserdisc? I don’t entirely know. But I know one key element to that success was the absolute belief that I didn’t need any one else’s permission or validation to do it.

And here we are, thirty years later. I’ve now spent more than half my career working with Uzma Johal as Threshold Studios with a string of projects behind us, made in collaboration with a host of organisations, artists, freelancers and film makers.

What lessons have I learned in thirty years?

  1. As my actor friend Rob once said, “anyone can do it while it’s easy”. Long-term success lies outside your comfort zone. Don’t say no to yourself. Dare to dream! Rise to the challenge. Keep stretching.
  2. Trust your instincts. I’d met Mitch once, I’d met Uzma once; working with them wasn’t a choice, it was a natural progression. I still can’t put it into words, so forgive the shorthand when I say in both cases it was a lightning bolt of psychic recognition. The decisions to bring our Head of Production Sam Lindley and Kristy Diaz our Digital Producer into the team were also rooted deep in the gut. We didn’t know we needed them until we met them, then we reshaped the organisation to suit their talents.
  3. Plan! Get the model right. Know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and WHY – always ask what comes next and how does this project help me get there? CONSTANTLY review where you’re going, where you want to be.
  4. Embrace rejection, expect failures, acknowledge their essential role in the creative process. The person who never made a mistake never made anything.

This is your LIFE! So you better be doing something you really love and believe in. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t commit to it. Integrity is EVERYTHING.

Get your party started!